About the Swahili Language

Here is a bit more background about the Swahili language. Swahili,, also known as Kiswahil in some areas, is the original language of the Swahili people who live in the coastline of the Indian Ocean from Somalia in the south up to Mozambique in the north, including the Comoros Islands. This covers an area of about 1,500 miles of that coastline. In fact, the name Swahili comes from an Arabic word meaning costal dwellers.

Five to ten million people speak Swahili as their first native language, and over 40 million speak it as their second language.

Swahili is the language in which business is conducted in most of East Africa and in the Domocratic Republic of the Congo. Some of these African countries have more than one official language, and Swahili one of those for Tanzania, Ugand and Kenya.

Because of their contact with Arabic-speaking traders and various Bantu-speaking people, also along that coastal area, Swahili has picked up about one quarter of it's vocabulary from Arabic. It has also picked up some Persian, German, Indian and English through the colonization years in Africa's history.

One of the earliest document written in Swahili is a poem from 1728, written in Arabic script. In more recent years the Latin (English) alphabet has come into use for writing Swahili, but it is still easy to find some written in the Arabic script.

Uganda made Swahili a required subject in primary school in 2005. It is not fully implimented but other countries like Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Somalia, Zambia, and the islands of Comoros are moving to such steps to preserve their Swahili.

The Swahili language is full of wordplays, puns, and rhyme. This goes well with the cultural parables, proverbs, and allegories that flow easily in the minds and hearts of native Swahili speakers.

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